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Jakarta Post

2 UK citizens face second trial in Batam

  • Fadli

    The Jakarta Post

Batam, Riau Islands   /   Thu, October 1, 2015   /  07:29 pm
2 UK citizens face second trial in Batam

 Batam Immigration Office

The second trial of two UK citizens has begun in Batam District Court on Thursday.

Neil Bonner, 31, and Becky Prosser, 30, were arrested in May by a Naval patrol for allegedly misusing their tourist visas by making a documentary film on piracy in the Strait of Malacca.

The two UK citizens are charged with Article 112 of Law No. 6/2011 on Immigration, which carries a sentence of five years imprisonment and a Rp 500 million (US$35,000) fine.

At the beginning of the trial, lawyer Aristo Pangaribuan said to the panel of judges and prosecutors that he objected to the use of handcuffs and prison uniforms for his clients. And he also objected to the fact that his clients were placed in a cell together with other criminals.

"We consider the use of handcuffs, prison uniforms and imprisonment together with other criminals extremely unreasonable. We want this objection to be recorded," said Aristo.

He added that the treatment did not conform to his clients' offense and that they should be deported instead of facing trial, since they were simply carrying out their journalistic duties, not creating a film.

Presiding judge Wahyu Prasetyo replied that the use of handcuffs and uniforms was fitting due to security reasons.

The second trial's agenda included witnesses testimonies from Navy (TNI AL) personnel as well as Indonesians who were allegedly paid to act in the film.

One of the witnesses, Batam Navy quick response commander, Captain Rudi Amiruddin, said the Navy had received information regarding the film production four days prior to the arrest.

During the arrest, the Navy allegedly seized four different video cameras, four face masks, four machetes and other equipment.

Another witness, Apsom Kakahue, who was allegedly one of the actors in the film, said that they were asked to do a scene without any script, only improvising.

"We were paid Rp 3 million [US$205] per person to reenact a piracy scene," said Amson.

The trial will continue next Monday with a testimony hearing from an expert witness from the immigration directorate general.

Previously, it was reported that Bonner, the alleged cameraman, and Prosser, the alleged producer, arrived in Batam via International Batam Center ferry port. They entered Indonesia using a visa on arrival and planned to stay in the country for seven days as tourists.

The general crime division head at the prosecutor's office, Ali Akbar, denied speculations that Bonner and Prosser were journalists. He said one of the suspects was listed as a documentary movie produce and the other as a cameraman for Wall to Wall Limited, a production house based in London.

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) said in a statement that Bonner and Posser were two journalists who worked for a production house called Wall to Wall Limited in London. All the films they produced would be aired on National Geographic. Based on information from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Asia Pacific, the two Brits are members of the National Union of Journalists.

On Thursday, AJI head Suwarjono said that if the two Brits were thought to be misusing their tourist visas, then they should be immediately deported.

"Why do [Bonner and Prosser] have to wait four months in immigration prison and be taken to trial? It is the epitome of the government's unreasonable nature," said Suwarjono in a press release as quoted by tempo.co.

He added that the criminal sanction would only add to the bad image Indonesia had concerning journalism and press freedom. Even though, he continued, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo stated he would give foreign journalists more access, even in conflict areas, it did not seem like that was happening.

"From the information we have received, the two journalists have submitted their visa requests to the Indonesian Embassy in London but didn't receive any answer," said Suwarjono. (kes)

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